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Rutgers Football Tailgater of the Week: Northwestern Edition

There are some amazing groups out there among the tailgate crowd. This week’s is no exception.

photo by Bill Shaughnessy

There really are amazing groups of people that show up to tailgate at every Rutgers football game. However, despite this wide array of great people, one of the most unusual group gathers at every game to provide food for as many of the Rutgers Marching Band as is interested. That’s right, a group of parents of the Rutgers Marching Scarlet Knights (both current and alumni) tailgate and cook for any band members that show up each game. They are On the Banks’ Tailgater of the Week!

Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

While there isn’t anyone who is the actual “head” of this group, it was generally acknowledged by everyone I spoke to that Barbara Blihar is the moving force behind this group. Barbara is an alumni parent now, but she continues to provide this for all of the current and former band members who want to come by each game.

Barbara Blihar
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Five years ago, she teamed up with the former director Tim Smith to start a tailgate for the Marching Band. The group would cook for all of the 250 band members, plus the staff, bus drivers, and anyone else, and provide food for all of them within 30 minutes! Hamburgers, hot dogs, and some baked goods were the typical food provided for the kids and staff.

This project ended after the 2016 football season. However, when the group began feeding the band back then, they also began a Band Parents tailgate. Three parents were the driving force in the group. From that small group of three parents, there are now 80-100 people that come to every tailgate.

Some band members enjoying the tailgate
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

At this point, the most important part of keeping this tailgate going are the two parents that have parking passes to the Scarlet Lot. They get these passes by purchasing them, one from an acquaintance, the other online from contributions people make to keep this group going. This is a major concern, as they do not know how they will keep this group moving forward after this season! Multiple grills, chafing dishes, coolers, tables, and all of the other items are needed to make a tailgate work, and they fit it all into only two parking spaces. It is a pretty amazing set-up. The current passes are the result of the work of Larry and Christine Zyontz, who along with James Lam and his wife Karisa Lau are the ones who bring a great deal of the equipment as well as the parking passes.

While the University provides “bandwiches” for the members of the Marching Scarlet Knights, it is no surprise that a large number of the band prefer to get their food at the Band Parents tailgate. So there is always a large group of them. Besides that, many band alums come to each tailgate, as well as band members/supporters of other schools. Some Northwestern band people stopped by while we were there as well.

Some Northwestern Band supporters stopping by for a visit
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

While they would love to get back to grilling for the entire band as they did in the past, they are very happy to be even a small part of the experience for the group that provides so much of the excitement and entertainment for each football game.

A couple of parents whose son graduated a year ago, Mary and Doug DeLorenzo, made a point to say how much Barbara Blihar has done to keep this tradition going. They called her the “Organizer-in-Chief.” Barbara immediately pointed out that she couldn’t pull this event off without a lot of help and support.

Alumni Band parents (l to r) Doug and Mary DeLorenzo, Barbara Blihar.
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

This group is truly parents who do this for the love of the school, the band, and of course, their children. However, it isn’t that they don’t want help from the University. More than anything else, they group would like two parking passes to continue this work, without having to fund-raise the money to purchase them on the open market. Barbara would love to have a meeting with Pat Hobbs to discuss their willingness to help out the band, but doesn’t want to “bother” him at the games. Barbara, Pat Hobbs would be more than willing to hear from you. Go for it!

Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Additions

As always, there are so many great things going on outside prior to the game, it is always difficult to pick just one, so I didn’t. Instead, there are several things to share.

Another great and sentimental event this past week was at the Rutgers Jitney tailgate, just outside the North entrance at the northwest corner of the stadium. A fixture at Rutgers tailgates for many years has been Scarlet, a Great Dane who has never missed a game in her long life. Scarlet, who is always dressed for the occasion, was celebrating her 12th birthday at the Jitney tailgate.

Scarlet resting after a busy morning!
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Scarlet is always accompanied by her steady companion Paul Caulfield. Scarlet came to her first game at just nine months old, and is now a fixture at games. Paul and Scarlet travel from lot to lot each week, say hello to friends, and meeting new ones all the time.

Scarlet being petted by new fan Emelia Bray and her dad Kevin, an ‘05 RU grad
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Not only does Scarlet go to all home games, she also attended the International Bowl in Toronto in January 2008, the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, AL in December 2008, and the St. Petersbugh Bowl in 2009.

Wherever Scarlet goes, she draws a crowd, and loves being with people.

Scarlet and Paul Caulfield
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Her photo has been taken countless times, and in fact, walking from the Scarlet Lot to the Scarlet Walk can take as long as 40 minutes due to how many times Paul and Scarlet have to stop to take pictures and say hello and be fussed over. Happy 12th Birthday, Scarlet!

Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

While most people know that the Band plays as they enter the stadium prior to each game, did you know that the Rutgers Glee Club also makes appearances prior to games where they perform the National Anthem? Well, they were there this past Saturday, and they as usual, looked very dapper and did a great job, too!

Rutgers Glee club in action
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Baton twirling is always a part of the entertainment at the games, and where do you show your skills after you graduate? Why, outside for the tailgating crowd, of course!

And finally, every game brings out the other team’s fans. One of them, Michael Carroll, had contacted me on Twitter in early September as a follow up to our article about the game day scene at Rutgers. It turned out by chance not only did he fly in from Chicago to see the game, he ended up tailgating directly next to my own! Small world, indeed.

(l to r) Wildcat fans Bert Karnes, Michael Carroll and Tyler Durdin taking in the scene at Rutgers
Photo by Bill Shaughnessy

Well, between the bye week, and an away game, tailgaters won’t be back in action until November 10. But, with two big tailgating games left, you can count on the action being nice and loud at back-to-back games against Michigan and Penn State. See you at the tailgate!